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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Does the Post Pay Its Staff to Use the Term "Free-Trade"?

Does the Post Pay Its Staff to Use the Term "Free-Trade"?

Saturday, 04 December 2010 09:24

It seems that way since the Post used the term 8 times, including in the headline, in an article that reported on the proposed U.S.-Korea trade pact. (The NYT only found the need to use it once in its article.)

We know that newspapers ordinarily like to save space, which makes it hard to understand why they insist on using the term "free-trade" when they discuss trade agreements which increase protection in many areas. Specifically, deals like the U.S.-Korea trade pact currently in the news enhance protection for patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property claims. They also do not free all trade, leaving in place most of the barriers that protect highly paid professionals (e.g. doctors, lawyers, and economists) from their lower paid counterparts in other countries.

For this reason, these trade deals cannot be accurately called "free-trade" pacts. It is true that these deals generally include the term "free-trade" in their name, but that is not a reason for neutral media outlets to adopt this favorable characterization. In the 1980s President Reagan dubbed the controversial MX missile system, the "Peacemaker." Media outlets did not follow his lead and begin referring to the missile with this term; there is similarly no reason why they should now be referring to trade agreements as "free-trade" agreements, when they clearly are not. 

Comments (16)Add Comment
Actually, it wasn't called the Peacemaker....
written by Pensfan, December 04, 2010 9:09
....it was called the "Peacekeeper".
Citing 'Free Trade' Infinitely IS Free Trade: Freedom IS Free
written by izzatzo, December 04, 2010 9:23
It seems that way since the Post used the term 8 times, including in the headline, in an article that reported on the proposed U.S.-Korea trade pact. (The NYT only found the need to use it once in its article.)

WaPo should be praised rather than condemned Mr Whose Your Nanny. Citing free trade repeatedly is precisely a consequence of zero marginal cost of posting an additional word on the internet, because the phrase "free trade" is not copyrighted and subject to fair use.

In contrast, the NYT is preparing to meter words with charges for reading phrases like "free trade", which is why it was used only once, to demonstrate its increased manufactured scarcity per Noam Chomsky.

Just when WaPo comes around to the abandonment of intellectual property rights for Communist Competition, Mr Nanny mocks it for doing exactly the right thing, producing large amounts of words in a highly competitive content market for low marginal cost, exactly the way Mr Nanny says Big Pharma should produce drugs.

Get a grip Mr Nanny. If freedom is free, then it's for words as well as drugs. Let free trade ring in both places. Don't force WaPo down the same road of socialism as the NYT. Free speech, like drugs, don't cost nothing.
free to pay
written by diesel, December 04, 2010 11:28
It's ironic that those who continually chant "free" do so in describing a society in which virtually everything is privately owned, in which, in other words, nothing is free.
open the doors...
written by pete, December 04, 2010 11:39
Yeah Dean, you surprise me once in a while! Recognizing that to bring down health care costs we must increase either our own *supply* of doctors, or bringing in more Indians, Nigerians, Koreans, etc. Much better than rationing or driving our own doctors out by paying less. By the way, though, premier universities in Asia, including Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China, are now matching U.S. nominal salaries for finance, probably economics too, drawing away a lot of U.S. talent. Of course these salaries are huge in relative terms in Asia, where you can get a maid for $30 a month plus room and board. So there really aren't a lot of underpaid quality econ/finance folks.

Transisting to a patent/copyright free society would be tough. Coke formula is not patented, they have done ok. First mover advantages should outweigh patenting for most drugs, for sure. Further, the process of creating the drug can be unpatented, so that really copying the drug can be difficult. But the issue of course remains fostering innovation. If done correctly, required non-monopolistic licensing can make up for the patent...
written by J-Bentham, December 04, 2010 11:40
They're all brainwashed by neoliberal ideology.
Private profit vs. Public benefit
written by Scott ffolliott, December 04, 2010 8:07
Private profit vs. Public benefit

This is the argument.or should it be

Public benefit vs Private profit?

Let the People Decide
written by Ron Alley, December 05, 2010 6:32
Free trade for medical services is relatively easy to achieve. Give the people a reasonable opportunity to seek medical care in foreign countries. A simple statutory change would make it possible for insured consumers to seek medical care in Mexico, France, India and other countries. Consumers don't use the services of foreign providers because the medical insurance industry (including Medicare) is free to deny claims from foreign providers -- hospitals, pharmacies and physicians -- just as it denies claims for pre-existing conditions. The solution to both issues is obvious.

Care and outcomes may improve. Foreign providers could not only furnish quality elective surgeries but might also include more comprehensive post-surgical care as a part of their fees. That might be very attractive to older patients who find that they cannot find appropriate and affordable aftercare. Foreign surgical centers might find it easier to use clean room technology to reduce infections. New business for foreign providers would just be a matter of marketing their services.

If we really believe in free markets then we need to provide consumers with the freedom to make choices.
written by David, December 05, 2010 9:18
Pinnochio, still waiting to become a real man, chides "Mr. Nanny". A self-satire of the first proportions. Even butterflies aren't free and there is no free lunch, I thought conservatives took that as a given. Even butterflies have to consider their costs. The new conservative is the type of critter that likes to pawn off his costs onto the public, until the public objects then he passes them off to his customer. But it's beyond their conception that they are responsible for their own costs. I find it remarkable their belief that repetition of the "free trade/free market" mantra invokes some magical power that we, the general public, are just suppose to accept on faith, in flagrant ignorance of a growing compendium of facts and data. At some point, we have to grow up and learn to pay our own way, rather than expecting the nanny (government) to rescue our financial institutions or to stay out of their way even when the private sector constantly and flagrantly externalize their costs, driving up our taxes in the process since we apparently need to babysit the market so that they don't put us all in one giant cesspool. There is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Grow up Pinnochio, you can't see beyond that long nose you've grown. Be a real man, and pay for every single word that is uttered.
Pinnochio's Nose is a Market Signal
written by izzatzo, December 05, 2010 12:28
It's not possible to tell a lie in free markets. That's the point of Pinnochio's elongated nose. It's a market signal that the nose knows it's lying.

Ronald Coase explained long ago that with zero transactions cost, externalities are impossible because social costs are absorbed automatically into private costs as parties negotiate them away. Either perpretators pay victims to pollute, or victims pay them to stop.

For example, when the shadow banking sector tried to lie about hyper-leveraged debt, it was instantly outed by primary buyers and sellers of collaterized debt obligations who spotted the sprouting nose and proceeded to bet against themselves for protection against negative externalities.

If they had not taken these corrective actions, an economic disaster would have emerged as downstream homeowners would be treated as third-party victims of negative externalities generated by the primary parties, forced to pay the investing lenders $8T in wealth to cease and desist perpetration of the financial pollution in question.

The only other possiblity under the Coase Theorem was the reverse - for lenders to pay the borrowers $8T in order to continue polluting, but that was before the Teabaggers rewrote the Coase Theorem along with the Constitution and other theories on Free Lunch Freedoms.
written by liberal, December 05, 2010 9:07
pete wrote,

By the way, though, premier universities in Asia, including Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China, are now matching U.S. nominal salaries for finance, probably economics too, drawing away a lot of U.S. talent.

Talent? LMAOROTF!!!

God, let's hope all this "talent" in economics and finance---which has almost destroyed the world economy---leaves us and decamps for Asia or anywhere else.
liberal....of course I knew that was coming :)
written by pete, December 06, 2010 9:05
Yes we are all overpaid worthless bums...the labor market is really weird sometimes. Only Dean is worth a cent, I suppose you are saying. His main claim to fame is implying that Krugman was incompetent for asking for a housing bubble in 2002 while Dean and Bob Shiller were warning that it was already in a bubble. Clearly nobody listened to them, and PK gets a Nobel prize. Whocouldanode?
written by David, December 06, 2010 2:09
"It's not possible to tell a lie in free markets." Information is not free and is often asymmetric. It is possible to lie, and very very possible to distort the truth. It's impossible to maintain a lie in the free markets, of course, but even the housing bubble lasted about 6 years, not because anybody was lying, but those making money didn't want to know. I can't see how conservatives can claim efficient and symmetric information (even asymptotically), when they practice ignorance of their own balance sheets or create faulty products that hide inefficiencies from their very own eyes. This is in addition to 'distorting the truth' in order to extract outlandishly inefficient tolls and fees from the unwashed masses.

Coase himself said that transaction costs are "often extremely costly, sufficiently costly at any rate to prevent many transactions that would be carried out in a world in which the pricing system worked without cost." In other words, in a perfect world, it's a great theorem. In application, the theorem is quite bit more iffy. In fact your argument that it somehow justifies the anarcho-capitalist position is rife with logical/mathematical error of interpretation. But math IS hard. If you've not read this, it can help:

It's surprising that Friedman can fool himself for so long, ignoring the empirical data, etc. He should know better, but then he's carved out quite a niche for himself, so why should he pay attention to empirical evidence?
More on Coase
written by David, December 06, 2010 2:25
Free trade
written by don, December 06, 2010 5:08
"Free trade" agreements should have a clause revoking benefits if one party engages in currency manipulation through official interventions in exchange markets.
currency manipulation=>free stuff
written by pete, December 06, 2010 7:44
Essentially, currency manipulation means that the Chinese govt is subsidizing our purchases of their stuff. So, we get a $1,000 TV for $800 or so. They have just given us a $200 rebate. Thanks man. Further, suppose they did not have a capital surplus via manipulation, instead buying stuff with their dollars as they got them, like buying Bakersfield or Las Vegas with their $800B. Who would buy the extra $800B of debt? Ben? It simply does not add up. If we had no deficit/debt they would not be able to manipulate their currency, since they could not buy the bonds. They would have to buy our assets or goods.

For now, take their money, as they give it. Japan did it too, look where it took them...meanwhile we got a whole lot of cheap cars.
written by gucci outlet, December 07, 2010 8:53

For now, take their money, as they give it. Japan did it too, look where it took them...meanwhile we got a whole lot of cheap cars.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.